He slept in. His alarm clock didn't go off, and he didn't rise until the mosquitoes were particularly thick over his face. Even then, he left his eyes closed until the sounds of playful teenagers grew to an insufferable pitch. For an hour, he sat at his shadowy window, watching through a used sporting mask as they skinny-dipped and pranked each other. How he would have loved to snare one of those pranksters, crushing his windpipe and replacing him, so that at the moment his girlfriend expected a joke, she would instead receive a machete.
One hand twitched on learned reflex, raising for the row of tools on his shed's wall. His arm brushed the calendar, and it rustled, haunting him with the date. He had to reach out and stop his hand from clasping a pitchfork, for "close" wasn't good enough. It was Saturday the 13th, and that meant one particularly doleful weekend for the homestead.
Saturday, October 13, 2012
Friday, October 12, 2012
This absolutely did not happen, and is especially not about me or anything I said to my niece, no matter what anyone tells you. It is entirely a work of fiction.
Once there was a family of three, a mother and father struggling with their impulsive daughter. Despite buying her anything she wanted and bribing her with trips to the movies and theme parks, she refused to do any chores. This girl loathed cleaning her room with the passion that God loathed sodomy. Eventually they said she could not have dessert on any night when she didn’t at least make her bed. On the first night, she tore the sheets from her mattress and screamed so loud the neighbors phoned the police.
This girl had a loving and helpful uncle. He went over for dinner on the second night and witnessed her punting her iPhone across the house. When he inquired why, she yelled, “It’s a form of protest!”
After her parents explained things to this loving and helpful uncle, he asked for a moment alone with her. He shut the door and had a private chat in her room. When he re-opened the door, her anxious parents found their little girl hastily putting toys away in her closet. The parents took it as a miracle and hugged this genius uncle with a gratitude he wishes they remembered now.
When they inquired what he’d done, he said he’d merely talked reasonably to her.
When they inquired to his niece, she pursed her lips together, avoided their gaze, and asked if dessert were available.
Immediately after school the next day, she put her Adventure Time knapsack in exactly the right spot. After her father made her a sandwich, she washed her own plate for the first time in her life. As dusk rolled in, she rushed to her room to make sure it was tidy, and no sooner was dinner over, then she nervously circled the table and ensuring her parents’ chairs were pushed in correctly.
This routine lasted a few days, until an unusually strong storm knocked out the power in their neighborhood. The entire family woke up late, and she almost missed school. Her father honked from the car twice before going back indoors, discovering her hastily smoothing the sheets on her bed. He had to drag her away from the room, at which point she punched him square in the groin and threw an incomprehensible tantrum, yelling something about “him finding us.”
When her father asked who “he” was, she froze up and babbled that she couldn’t talk about him. He’d come sooner then.
While her father was befuddled, her mother was suspicious. She’d never been as nice to her brother as she could, and needlessly sought to blame him first. She phoned him in the middle of a very busy writing session, completely breaking his train of thought. It was only because he was preoccupied with writing-thoughts that he let slip that, maybe, he’d told his niece a fib.
The mother asked, as rudely as humanly possible, what story he’d told.
The uncle answered, as polite as could be, that there might have been an axe-murdering clown loose in the city, psychically attracted to families who left their rooms dirty. He tended to sleep in closets that were not properly organized or beneath unmade beds.
The mother went utterly hysterical, forcing the kindly uncle to drive all the way to their house and explain to his niece that there was no such clown. It took two hours of his day to convince her that the whole thing had been a joke and none of her family were at risk of axe-based homicide. Even after using his whole afternoon to debunk it, her parents showed no gratitude, screaming at him on his way back to his car.
Thursday, October 11, 2012
I mean, I’d like to live with you forever. You’re the best friend I’ve ever had, even if you drank my dad, and really, if we live forever, then we can live to the point where humans go to space, and then we don’t have to worry about the sun killing us anymore. That’s pretty much living in a night sky, which you don’t seem allergic to. And I think rolling around with a vampire space-buddy would be bad ass.
But I don’t think it’s a good idea. Dad won’t be the last person who tries to plant a stake in you, and you’re kind of helpless during the day. Rough as shit at night, but not during sun-up. And I don’t know if you know this, but insurance people, and meter readers, and the IRS, and cleaning ladies – they all visit during the day. It’s only luck that a tornado or hurricane or terrorist hasn’t blown up a wall and bathed you in killer sunshine. What if you need to evacuate? We’re going to have to live in this world for a century or something before we can blastoff into space, and buddy, you’re just not equipped. You’re a creature of the night, but also a special needs case.
So I’m thinking, at least for right now, I’m going to stay human. I can finish my Registered Nurse training, and maybe even get paid by the government to take care of your ass. That’d be funny, right? Their tax dollars at work, assisting a predator.
Also, you’re not eating people anymore. At least not in front of me. Dad was a premium asshole, but… yeah, I can’t take many more homicides. Do a blood drive. Or, I’ll do a blood drive, since those are mostly during the day.
See, though? I’ve got to stay flesh-and-blood, not flesh-and-blood-and-blood-and-blood. It’s better for both of us. Just hope that, you know, they figure out robot bodies before I get too old. I really want to see space.
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
I lived in the same house for most of my life. My parents brought me home to it the night I was born, they made pencil marks on a wall as I grew taller, I lay in a bed crippled there are 13, dragged myself to the bathroom and learned to walk again in its halls. It became a ward where I thrived and recovered, and over time I almost convinced myself it loved me back. But eventually Mom had to put it up for sale.
The packing was intense. I spent one entire morning dividing things from my filing cabinets. Near noon I hungered, and because our fridge was unplugged and appliances packed, our only hot meals were takeout. I paused for a moment, looking out my door to Mom’s, which was perpendicular to mine, and so I could see hers was open. Listening, I heard papers rustle in her room, and so I called out.
“Hey Mom, want anything from the deli? I’m thinking about lunch”
I heard the sound of papers being set down, but she didn’t answer. When I called again there was still no reply. I got up and walked over to her door, and found while there were folders on her bed, she wasn’t around. I could see every corner, even the door to her private bathroom. Unless she was hiding the bathroom with the door open, no one was there.
Thinking I must have been mistaken, I returned to my room to get a little more work done. Once Mom returned, I’d ask her what she wanted for lunch. But almost as soon as I opened my desk drawers, I heard the distinct sound of someone walking into Mom’s bathroom.
I called one more time, something to the effect of, “Hey, Mom?”
Water began running through the pipes. My sister was downstairs doing laundry, and the laundry room was relatively close to our hall, just a flight down, yet I could swear I heard water running through the pipes into Mom’s room. As I walked toward her bathroom, the sound of water in the pipes stopped, though continued faintly downstairs. I checked through the open bathroom door and saw that it was empty; the window was closed, and the shower stall open and vacant. The sink was dry, making me doubt my hearing. I looked around impotently, for there was no other way in or out of her bathroom than through this door.
A little while later, back in my room, I heard water running through the pipes again, and this time the inclusion of water splashing in her bathroom sink. When I yelled for her, no one responded, and I went straight for her bathroom. The sink was off, but now it was wet. I put my hand to it, just to make sure.
When I asked my sister, she had no idea and seemed unnerved by the story. We’d been alone in the house. Mom arrived home some time later; she’d driven out for some moving-related errands. She had no idea what I’d been hearing, and joked that the house was going to miss me.
I don’t think our house was haunted, or that it had gone sentient and messed with me on my last days of residence. I do wonder about it, though, from time to time.
Tuesday, October 9, 2012
I remember when the Man of Steel first learned how to turn his skin. He was the Boy of Steel back then, living in the Hawkins’s basement since his parents ran out on him young. He was a confused boy even before he turned bulletproof. Just struggled with his C-average and afterschool job at the dog pound.
He had all the opportunities in the world. You develop a talent like o that, and you’re set for money. The military would have drafted him if it was legal. The NFL threw money at him, and two of the crappier cable networks offered him his own show. I saw someone from the Google annoying him on the walk home from school, trying to talk him into being the official mascot of Chrome. Whatever the hell that is.
The other kids were miserable to him. They’d stick magnets to his back, or steal his homework and leave it in the cans-recycling bin. Boy of Steel just needed companionship, which is probably why he kept his job at the pound for so long, and started adopting when he had the money.
Monday, October 8, 2012
We’re closing out our warehouse of story prompts today, running all the way up to 26, that sweet Heinlein number. There’s some Horror, SciFi, Fantasy, and even a sports story. See anything you like?
19. A teenaged girl stumbles upon a curious Youtube channel that seems to be chronicling another young woman’s life. The Youtube-Girl seems funny, adventurous, an addictively charming host, but as the videos proceed, we discover she’s also a werewolf, and the channel is documenting her coming to terms with her impulses. Our teen protagonist is smitten with the wolf-girl, and horrified when the latest videos reveal she’s being hunted by paranormal poachers. Soon our teen has to study the videos and internet records to find out where this werewolf is – if not to confess their starcrossed love, then to save her life.
20. Stop me if you’ve heard this one. Every full moon, she turns into a monstrous werewolf, stalking and eating innocent people. Worse, the morning after every full moon she finds videos her wolf-self has recorded, taunting her with what she’s done. She’s tried baptisms, locking herself in basements, even suicide, but nothing stops the monster from rising again in the full moon, and the next morning she awakes alive and free, and with a new video on her laptop. Unable to directly stop her other self, she has to become craftier. By creating fake ISPs and web accounts, she hopes to troll her other self in comments and video responses, derailing her from carnage. Can you manipulate a werewolf’s ego? She’ll have to, because if the videos are right, her family is going to get a visit soon.
21. A U.S. marine races with his detail to deactivate a bomb that will devastate a small Afghani town. His detail, including the two bomb disposal experts, are killed in an ambush by terrorists. Though the terrorists are also slain, there’s no way he can stop the explosion. He has less than an hour to convince the town, where no one speaks English and many are terrified of the foreigners who’ve brought bloodshed to their doorsteps, to evacuate and save their lives.
22. Due to flagging Pay Per View ratings, a boxer agrees to take on a professional wrestler in a real fight. The wrestler outweighs him by eighty pounds, but all analysts think the boxer is guaranteed to win, being a real fighter and all. They don’t know that the boxer’s entire career has been fixed – every fight he’s ever won was against an opponent paid to take a dive. The boxer panics when our wrestler refuses any bribes. Apparently he’s got something to prove.
23. Ten thousand years in the future, human beings return to the wasteland that was once Planet Earth. Its demise is shrouded in mystery. Every city is ashes, and not a single human corpse remains – on the surface, anyway. Off the coast of Europe, their scanners detect the ancient city of Atlantis, which seems almost pristine. Why is a city that was supposed to not exist the only relic of humanity that remains on earth? And is it uninhabited?
24. A meteor bigger than any our solar system has ever seen is on a crash course with our planet. There seems to be no way to stop it. Yet it also seems the meteor has an atmosphere, and though the front has terrifying weather, its western and southern hemispheres are more habitable than most of earth. A small family is divided in the same way that the population of earth is: half want to undertake the doomed mission to stop the meteor, where the other half want to undertake the doomed mission to hop aboard.
25. This is one I gave to Peter Newman last month: “I would very much appreciate a flash fiction about a unicorn that got itself stuck in a pencil sharpener and suffering panic attacks over how to dislodge the thing.”
26. This is one appeared on my blog last year: “Make me regret the death of a horrible person based on some relationship he/she had to a living character.
There’s my twenty-six. The last two came back to mind near the end, and so I included them last, but everything else was produced in about an hour on Monday. I’m not in a story-drought right now. Anyone who is, though, is welcome to use any of the above.
If you post the resulting story in a public forum, like your blog or selling it to a zine, please link me here so I can come read it. Go as far as you want – if one of these turns into a novel, it’s entirely yours, not mine. I’d love to know what anyone does with any of these.
And sorry about the lack of a hundred bucks.
Sunday, October 7, 2012
Continuing our series of story ideas for those in a creative drought. This Part 2 of 3, covering 10-18. We’ll close out tomorrow.
Jump to the finale post, with Ideas 19-26, by clicking here!
10. A nightmarish monster from a forgotten time awakens in the ice beneath a science station in Antarctica. Immediately upon waking it is ravenous, anemic, upon the verge of death - it needs sustenance. If it doesn't consume all of the humans living in the station above, it'll die by dawn. There's no other way, and it can't help but lack empathy for its food when they immediately try to quarantine it. God knows why they want to do that, and it’s certainly too close to death to care.
11. On December 31st, Satan has his annual meeting with God at their favorite diner in New Jersey to discuss the progress report of things one earth. He’s hoping for a raise. What, you didn't know the fallen angel was undercover?
12. Vampire hunters start a covert blood bank, selling blood as a food supply for vampires. Why? Because this is the easiest way to poison the biters to death, lacing random bags of clover with silver dust. But there's a shocking revelation: the biggest investor is himself an ancient vampire, hoping to wipe out the hedonistic current generation.
13. A man escapes his quotidian life by drawing comic strips of a sunnier existence. Rather than having an abusive wife, his cartoon self has a manic pixie girl. Rather than being stuck in a dead-end job in a recession, he's climbing the cartoon corporate ladder. He's always drawn the comic idly, just letting it flow from his unconscious. Only when he pays attention does he notice his comic-self is also anxiety-ridden, and draws his own, still smaller comic to get his mind off of things, a series of comic strips about an incredibly bleak and depressing world that makes him feel better about his own. This horrifies our artist. But he has to choose what to do with his time: navigating his cartoon-self toward self-realization and happiness, or confronting his own reality. Is he even capable of either?
14. Xenophobic Martians desperately try to hide from an earth-sent rover that can only be bringing bad news.
15. A monster hunter willingly dies with issues unresolved to come back as a ghost. In this form, she can help her fellow monster hunters as no tangible person can. But in a few decades, everyone she ever worked with is dead, and the cultures of the world are passing her by. Worse, any resolution that would have put her to rest is now unachievable. The only people she can talk to are other ghosts, who fear or loathe her for her reputation. Her only shot at companionship is finding a newborn ghost who doesn’t know her yet, to befriend for eternity. Yet when she meets a teenaged ghost who’s obsessed with her own death, she has to decide whether or keep the teen as a friend, or to help her rest in peace.
16. A fringe civil rights activist is fading from fame. Once he preached on court steps and marched with Martin Luther King Jr. (not that the Reverend would speak to him that day, for their politics differed too radically). Now two generations of people have taken the fight to heights he never expected, a chaotic inclusiveness that intimidates him, and have made rebellion mainstream. In a last-ditch effort at relevance, he hires someone to stage an attack on him at an upcoming protest. The savaging of an old man standing up for goodness would get him the spotlight again, and allow him to put politics in his terms again.
17. The fluoride in everyone’s water and toothpaste really was a Soviet mind control conspiracy, but the Soviet Union is gone. Control of the project falls into the hands of an eccentric Chechen computer genius, who has the ability to change minds – all of them – in any one way she pleases. The mind control of fluoride will expire on Sunday, though, so she’s only got a week to decide how she wants to change the world.
18. It turns out we weren’t really designing architecture at all – for all human history, buildings have secretly been using us to construct themselves. In this slice of life, we see a gossipy community of suburban row houses rumoring, cheating and spying on each other, their occupants none the wiser.